The Wizarding World of Wizard World Philadelphia

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Wizard World Recap

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Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and more prone to daydream about being a father, or maybe my perception of the comic con crowd is actually legitimate, but it seems to me that the annual Wizard World Comic Con event in Philadelphia is becoming increasingly targeted toward children. As it should be.

The weekend-long events have always been largely family-friendly and adult Stans and fandom devotees never resisted the urge to drag their children along for the ride due to some fleeting hope that a switch may flip in Junior’s subconscious, causing him to suddenly be fascinated with low-budget sci-fi from the 1970s.

While it is difficult to tell whether there were really more children in attendance or if I was just noticing them more frequently, the stands, merchandise and set-ups featured ball pits, stuffies, children’s costumes, people talking in cartoony kindergarten voices, and more.

kSJPQPsrRPql4PoSo3BGfANow, I could be horribly wrong and the reality of the enigmatic landscape of Wizard World Comic Con could just be catering to the sophomoric desires of its giddiest attendees. But there was something about seeing loads of parents with their bright-eyed kids (with varying levels of excitement) actually able to enjoy and participate in the festivities without having to narrowly avoid being trampled by a stampede of 30-somethings desperate to get a picture with an adult man who portrayed a cartoon character in a movie.

The levels of exuberance amongst adults seem to be a bit subdued when the celebrity guests aren’t a tremendous draw, leveling out the attendees to those who simply want to bring their kids, hang out, buy some pop culture merchandise, and get some pictures of the bewildered.

Saturday, the busiest of the Con days, wasn’t even overloaded with large elaborate costumes. It seemed to be mostly young people and young children having a solidly good time. The moderate level of celebrity photo ops were engaging but not distracting. In fact, one of the longest lines I observed was in the food area where costumed grown-ups waited for hot chicken tendies.

When the crowds aren’t overwhelming and the booth operators and merchandisers are able to breathe while they converse with potential customers, everything seems a little bit more fun.

The only thing to which I can attribute this perceived new Comic Con dynamic is the lack of truly A-List celebrity guests. And in a world where the pop culture comic book fandom has become ubiquitous and over-praised, children are often alienated, or at least pushed to the sidelines.

kuv5m4e8RluNawp3eUiqLwThink about it. When you were a kid, it was far more exciting to play with toys, imagine yourself as a superhero or Jedi, and be able to share those moments with your parents than it was for you to meet the guy who played Chewbacca. I think that’s the key.

Can the comic book pop culture, toys, costumes, and imaginative play survive on its own merit once the deadpan seriousness with which it’s taken in the real world subsides?

Do we even remember what it’s like to see toys and games that require us to utilize our imaginations rather than be visually fleshed out in all its detailed cinematic glory?

While it doesn’t seem likely that these indulgent fantasy fandoms will deteriorate from the mainstream pop culture ether any time soon; but it was nice to see actual children being able to embrace it all without chaotic adults running the show.

You remember children; the audience all of this nonsense was always intended for.

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The Curious Case of Taylor Alison Swift

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s since September 13th, 2009. Most people would lie to you and say “I’ve been a fan since the very beginning,” but not me. This was a very specific date when something very significant happened. Less than a year after America had elected its first black President and Taylor released her second studio album,¬†Fearless, she was nominated, and won, Best Female Video for her song¬†You Belong With Me at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

That evening, two notable occurrences took place. First, a drunk and obnoxious Kanye West hopped up on the stage, insisting that Beyonc√© Knowles–then nominated for the chart-topping¬†Single Ladies —had one of the best music videos of all time. Later in the evening, upon accepting her award for Video of the Year, Beyonc√© offered Taylor Swift the microphone to finish her acceptance speech from earlier.

This evening soured many people on Kanye West, made many others aware of Taylor Swift, and served as a moment of mutual respect in a music industry that had crossed all racial divides. It was a proud moment in Obama’s America; a moment that nobody needed Obama for. There were no politics. Only people.

For almost ten years after that moment, Taylor Swift went from being the darling of the country music scene to one of the most successful pop acts ever, and did so while remaining almost entirely apolitical. She recognized that alienating half her audience may not be the best path forward for a pop superstar.

She’d adopted this persona as a heartsick fairy tale princess who only wanted to bake cupcakes, give surprise gifts to her fans, hang out with her cats, and find Prince Charming somewhere down the line.

So what happened?

Related imageTaylor’s career was deeply invested in Big Machine Records,¬†the music label she lifted off the ground, and vice versa. She had complete control and the money was good. She had made a name for herself, brought up new country artists, and cultivated a fan base (or Stan-base?) of Swifties the world over.

In 2016, three more monumental occurrences transpired. First, Taylor Swift had a very messy and public spat with Kim Kardashian and (once again) Kanye West over some of the language about her used in one of West’s tracks. Second, Taylor postponed her 7th and final album to be released through the¬†Big Machine Records¬†label due to the stress and anger she was receiving from non-Swifties. And finally, Hillary Clinton, with the full force of everyone in the entertainment industry behind her (sans Taylor Swift), lost the Presidential Election to Donald Trump.

With the release of her 7th album, Reputation, and subsequent tour, Taylor was finished with her label, and became one of the most valuable musical free agents in history. She had been through the eye of the storm, risked losing her fans, generated a lot of frustration due to her silence in the 2016 election, and had a successful stadium tour to promote her album.

And that brings us to today. After being acquired by¬†Universal Music Group,¬†starting work on her 8th studio album, and pushing 30, Taylor Swift decided it was time to show people who she really is in the pages of¬†Elle¬†magazine. Her self-written article titled¬†30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30, reads like a strange fiction concocted by someone who isn’t quite certain of her own real world identity.

Image result for taylor swiftShe explains her decision to cut off commenting from¬†Instagram and other social accounts due to caustic responses from the Internet’s finest.

It continues in awkward fashion, as she analyzes and critiques her own changing body like a teenager noticing them for the first time. And while turning 30 may be a milestone in her own life, she bizarrely asserts that strange notions like the idea that her hair has suddenly become straight after 29 years of being curly, and that men could never possibly understand the horrors of aging.

She reacts in a somewhat confusing manner to the May 22, 2017 Ariana Grande concert suicide bombing. She claims that she constantly fears for not only her fans’ safety, but hers as well. In a thought experiment that would lead any rational reader to conclude “this is when I started carrying mace/a taser/a knife/a gun” she reveals that she now carries first aid gauze for patching knife and bullet wounds, seeming to imply a complete lack of either honesty or awareness of actual physical danger.

She vows never to let outside opinions and politics impact her own, which then begs the question, why all of this? And why now?

She casually blames the entire year two-thousand sixteen for her desire to learn how to mix her own cocktails; a woman in her late twenties. Furthering a narrative that she is a long-time home cook, she assures readers that she loves cooking several recipes including an appalling “only ground beef” meatball dish, and other entirely basic concoctions courtesy of solely celebrity chefs. Less disturbing is her celebration of acquiring a game-changing “garlic crusher” (an item that doesn’t exist).

Perhaps even more egregious than the whole cooking debacle she announces that she has learned to always believe the “victim” of sexual assault due to her own experience as a victim. Not to belittle Taylor’s legal butt-grab battle, but comparing her experience to those who have experienced actual sexual assault seems to cheapen it a bit.

Taylor then proclaims that now, at age 29, she is finally ready to get extremely political with her hundreds of millions of followers…a decision I’m certain will not go over swimmingly.

The remainder of her learned experiences are often somewhat sad. She regrets relationships, fake friends, trusting the wrong people, and not going with her gut more often. Surely, all of these sound fairly commonplace in American life.

What this article communicates with me is that while Taylor Swift has spent her career being a consistently aspirational figure, she has spent very little time figuring out what it means to be truly authentic.

Image result for taylor swift

Fuck Your Creepy Stanbase

4It may seem like I’m sitting on a fantastic wire fence of curmudgeonry between Ironysville and the Borough¬†of Hypocrisy by writing an article about the horrors of fanatical stans on¬†Twitter. Especially coming from a website that’s not-so-subtly playing off the pop culture iconography of Taylor Swift. But, fuck it, let’s do this.

The gay teenager hasn’t just become a valued identity symbol in our wacky progressive Western society; it’s evolved to a enviable status symbol. The younger you are–but more importantly, behave–and the brighter you sparkle, the more attractive you are as a cultural commodity.

8Not only has this utterly devastated the alt/punk “otherness” of the LGBT communities and movements, but it’s all-but bankrupted the flourishing¬†bully market. I’m not talking about adult “bullies” like Donald Trump, mind you. I think it’s disgusting how any grown person can refer to any other grown person and a “bully” and not be immediately slapped. Donald Trump is a 90’s kids’ movie villain, but he can’t be a bully because he’s not twelve.

Of course, you don’t need to be a professional bully to be a bully. All children are bullies by nature–even the precious autistic ones. And the cool new culture of dorks picking on the slow-reading jocks and cheerleaders is the “reverse racism” of the schoolyard.

You can’t open your¬†Twitter app anymore without at least one of the top trending hashtags being some illegitimate feud between Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, or Katy Perry’s bulimic Asian or Hispanic fans bullying and threatening each other into developing new and interesting eating disorders of their own. Because they’re all mentally unstable narcissists, they take the opportunity to flaunt, gloat, and expose their fangs via the anonymity of social media, and then blame the “bullies” when some precious snowflake can’t handle the pressure and swallows too many pills or takes a face-down bath.

The¬†term “stan” is obviously (for anyone born before 2000 A.D. Most people think it’s just a tongue-in-cheek combination of the words “stalker” and “fan”) a reference to the Eminem single off of the¬†Marshall Mathers LP, brilliantly acted by Devon Sawa in the music video, about an unhinged and sociopathic Slim Shady fan. And the modern stans share almost all of the same characteristics. You’ll notice them by their fleeting grip on youth, blind dedication to a very specific¬†YouTube celeb, pop star, or¬†Instagram¬†account, and their group-think hive minds.

5You’ll find they usually gather en masse to promote trending topics like #TylerOakleyJustSaidTheNwordParty¬†or¬†#ZaynDid911Party¬†where you’ll be horrified to see the same memes¬†and random idiocracy being practiced by everyone from 13-year old Nicaraguans to 40-year old black women. Almost all of these people will be extremely defensive; not only of their celebrity Waifu, but of their thousands of paid-for or otherwise acquired fake followers, their naive childish beliefs about how the world works, and the weirdly harmful notions that mental disability and delusion are somehow badges of honor. They respond to any criticism of their behavior with “sit down” or “delete your account” because, only they are permitted to walk, talk and exist. And their online personas are defined by one minor-to-suitable celebrity who may have interacted with them at some point. You’ll see phrases like “5SoS favorited my tweet in 2015” or¬†“Cher follows me” or¬†“Tom DeLonge from¬†Blink 182 RT’d my status about how vaccines are actually alien implants.”

6To their credit, these little post-midnight Mogwai have heavily influenced the music scene, effectively accomplishing two tasks: making pop music bland, inoffensive, and uninteresting; and forcing the entire entertainment industry to value inane and¬†cursory appeal rather than prevalent talent and quality–or some weird combination of both, such as hating on the Kardashian-West clan but shelling out premium dollarydoos for anything with any variation of their names printed on it.

7Standom isn’t just creepy and pathetic, it’s downright boring. The mere fact that undying fans shower people like 30-year old¬†Lady Gaga with praise over an objectively atrocious new single, but take an innovative and long-lasting artist like¬†40-year old¬†Sia for granted, is cripplingly heartbreaking. It’s pretty upsetting to watch people throwing awkward praise at someone like¬†Rihanna, who is arguably one of the last truly interesting current pop stars, while still trying to appease those who trick themselves into believing that¬†Beyonce has done anything fun or original in decades.

We mustn’t get it twisted–there is no pat on the back for you old heads who stick to your Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, or old school hip hop and make sweeping judgments about the current state of music. Every aspect of entertainment is so over-saturated with content that it’s nearly impossible not to¬†find something up-to-the-second modern that you can get behind or appreciate…and you should…or perish at your own peril. Because this cultural wave may eventually break, but the times will still not be kind to those stuck in the past.

3That’s not to say that these young delusional taste-makers will be the future. No, their future is going to grow much darker. If you’ve been awake to see the frightened and confused way Millennials are handling their transition into adulthood (even coining the word “adulting” to describe things they have to do as a grown-ass grown-up that aren’t as “fun” as they might’ve wished), the even-younger generation has got to be without hope or redemption.

But you can help–and it won’t cost you a dime. With the bully being effectively extinct, it’s up to young people, peers, mentors, and the otherwise “woke” to make sure you’re irreverent, push buttons, trigger, blur the lines of political correctness, yank away the fainting couch, rip the pearls from the clenched and clammy hands…and perhaps most importantly, slap a stan.

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